[Avionics Today 8-6-2014] University of Maryland (UMD) officials announced the launch of the school's new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) testing site. Last year Maryland lost its bid to serve as one of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) six UAS testing sites, but UMD is still expecting to be involved in some of the federal research on integrating UAS into the National Airspace System.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, said the nearby Patuxent River Naval Air State will serve as the site's "premier facility for research, development, testing, and evaluation." The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) also uses the Patuxent River location for evaluating the technological aspects of some of the UAS in its growing Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance (UCLASS) program, such as the Northrop Grumman-built X-47B.
"With federal facilities like Pax River and a robust university system partnering together, Maryland will continue to lead the way in a critical field and benefit from diversification of our regional economy," said Hoyer.
Matt Scassero, a former U.S. Navy captain and leader of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, has been appointed as the director of UMD's new UAS testing site.
Prior to the FAA's selection of its six testing sites last year, Maryland signed an agreement with Virginia and New Jersey to collaborate on UAS research. Virginia Tech University was one of the six sites chosen by the FAA.
"Our existing relationship with the University of Maryland serves as the foundation of this new test site," said Vice Admiral David Dunaway, commander of NAVAIR. "The sharing of human capital and expertise from the university, government, and industry will be a conduit for technology transfer, and the overall betterment of national security."
The launch of UMD's testing comes as the FAA prepares to release its long-delayed draft rule that will begin the process of creating regulations for operators of small UAS for commercial purposes. The agency recently approved the first-ever commercial UAS flights over land, granting AeroVironment permission to fly its Puma AE for aerial survey mapping in Alaska. Also up for consideration is the agency's granting of a Certificate of Authorization (COA) permitting the use of UAS for the purpose of filming movies and television shows.
Industry groups such as the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) are projecting the commercial UAS arena could be an $82 billion industry within the next decade.